An “Alien of Extraordinary Abilities” is not a Grey with telekinesis or something like that, as jazz guitarist Georgi Petrov playfully alludes in the art for his second album; it’s the name of a special visa that got him American citizenship when he came here from Bulgaria, the same (in)famous “Einstein” visa that our own First Lady used to vault over the wall. And while it definitely helps to have someone in your corner during the process (ahem), you don’t have to be a model or a genius to get one. You just have to be outstanding in your field.
Petrov has that covered, subtly mixing native Balkan rhythms and tonalities with classicist bop. He performs two main functions in his latest quartet: laying down a thicket of breezy, undulating chords so that Tomas Majcherski can go exploring with his tenor sax, meanwhile unspooling his own leads, equally influenced by cool- jazz piano guru Lennie Tristano and Deep Purple legend Steve Morse, over the top.
That the former usually produces more profound results than the latter is no slag on Georgi’s abilities, extraordinary or not; it just marks him as a team player. Consider the way the sweetness of “Alone in Berlin” hangs on a simple two-chord phrase, or how his nearly single-handed tragic backdrop on “I Am Not Alright” gives Tomas space to really explore his hangover.
In fact, Petrov’s recent residence in the city seems to have informed the group’s commitment to rhythm over flash, as evident in drummer Brad Webb’s sometimes almost martial approach to funk, whether glimpsed rolling
around in the background on “Spies” or pushed to the fore on the title track. It’s a groove Georgi finds a lot of room to color in, although the quartet usually just struts along on most of these nine originals, traditional postwar jazz that occasionally flashes its free jazz prowess. Not every jazzman needs to be an Einstein, but Georgi and his pan-cultural bop definitely earn the right to be called “extraordinary.” Sometimes it is about what you know.